By MONI BEN-EZRA
ATHENS – Being a Jew in Greece has certainly become different, it has certainly become more difficult.
Why? The financial crisis driving the whole country well into a deep recession for more than four years has mainly impacted the private sector. Medium and small-sized companies are the major victims of the crisis so far, with closures or huge drops of turnover, lack of liquidity, soaring unemployment etc.
Jews in Greece, traditionally entrepreneurs, merchants and businessmen or executives of all levels in the private sector, have been hit by considerable income reductions. Moreover, as owners of real estate, they have also seen the values of their investments dropping and respective income showing a sharp decrease if not vanishing altogether.
While some have reserves from the good days and can still afford a good quality of life, the majority follow the general population trends with severe financial problems.
The community of Athens, as an indication, is receiving new applications from its members requesting financial assistance through its welfare net and the number of young members addressing the community’s committee for employment assistance has never been so high.
Had it only been the financial aspect, things would certainly have been hard to face, but Jews in Greece have been through very difficult times in the past and they would have found the strength to persevere.
Unfortunately, Jews in Greece are also faced today with an adverse political environment which has direct consequences on them.
Three years ago the Athens Court of Appeals acquitted Costas Plevris, who had been accused of violating the anti-racism law for his despicable book, Jews, The Whole Truth.
The book classified Jews as subhuman and criticized Adolf Hitler for his failure to kill them all.
Unfortunately, politicians, scientists, people of culture, representatives of institutions of this country, the very civil society, supposedly captivated by respect for justice (a la carte in Greece) refused to stand stature and tolerated an irrational decision for which the rationale was based on “freedom of speech and expression.”
Why should they care? It was about Jews, a weak numerical minority in Greece, with little electoral strength, it – the court decision – seemed not to threaten many.